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Patek Philippe

Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2020 all rights reserved.

The company was founded in 1839 by Antoni Norbert Patek de Prawdzic, later known as Antoine Norbert de Patek, (1812 - 1877) and Franciszek Czapek (1811 - ?).

Patek was born in Piaski, Poland and took refuge in Switzerland during the Polish Russian War of 1830 to 1831. He became a successful watch dealer in Geneva. Czapek was born in Semonitz, Bohemia, became a naturalised Polish citizen and trained as a watchmaker. He emigrated to Geneva where he met Patek and they formed Patek, Czapek & Co. The company began with six employees and made beautifully decorated watches with cylinder escapements that sold well to exiled Polish nobles. They made some of the first stem wound watches using the keyless winding design of Louis Audemars.

Jean Adrien Philippe (1815-1894) was born in La Bazoche-Gouet, Eure-et-Loire, some 50 mile from Paris. His father was a famous watchmaker and Adrien trained under him.

In 1842 Adrien Philippe invented the modern sliding or shifting sleeve form of "keyless" winding and setting. Although this was only one among thousands of the many attempts to make a perfect keyless watch, it was the most successful and is still used today. In 1845 Philippe was granted French patent No. 1317 for a “remontage au pendant” or device for winding watches via the pendant. The application was filed on 22 April and the patent granted on 5 June 1845. The invention could not be patented in Switzerland because that country had no patent law until 1888.

Philippe's invention was based on a pinion that could slide on a square section of the stem, the shaft that carries the crown that is used to wind the watch. Because the hole in the sliding pinion is square and it slides on a square part of the stem, when the crown and stem are turned the sliding pinion must also turn. In its normal position this winds the watch, but the sliding pinion can be moved along the stem by levers so that it disengages from the winding mechanism and engages with the hand setting mechanism. Turning the crown when it is in this position moves the hands.

There are two ways of operating the sliding sleeve keyless mechanism, the pin set or nail set method where a pin on the side of the case is pressed to enter the hand setting mode, or the more sophisticated version where the crown is pulled out. In both cases the action shifts the sliding pinion from the winding position into the hand setting position.

In 1844 Patek met Philippe at the universal Exhibition in Paris, where Philippe was exhibiting his keyless winding system, being awarded a gold medal. In 1845 Czapek left the partnership and Patek invited Philippe to join the company as head watchmaker.

From May 1845 to January 1851 the firm was called Patek & Cie. In 1851 Philippe was made a full partner and the company became Patek Philippe & Cie. The profile of the company was helped somewhat when at the Great Exhibition of the same year Prince Albert bought two of their watches, one for himself and one for Queen Victoria.

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Copyright © David Boettcher 2006 - 2020 all rights reserved. This page updated October 2020. W3CMVS. Back to the top of the page.